2002: Father of the Year Herron taught kids to enjoy the game
Carson Herron is the patriarch of Minnesota’s unofficial First Family of Golf, and the middle link in a three-generation run in the U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur. The “on-paper” reasons are solid enough for Herron’s recognition as Golfweek’s 2002 Father of the Year.
But the 20th annual award goes to Herron, 63, as much for the variety of his children’s enjoyment of the game as for the family’s varied successes.
“I wanted them to be comfortable with the game, to make sure they were around good players,” said Herron, who partnered with wife Cean to raise three children and guide them through life and golf. “But I also wanted them to get to know the employees at the club before they got to know the members.”
Tim, 32, the only son and middle child, is a three-time winner on the PGA Tour. He’s playing this week in his seventh U.S. Open, and has earned more than $5 million in seven years on Tour. As an amateur, he won three matches on the victorious U.S. Walker Cup team in 1993 following an All-American season at the University of New Mexico.
Tim’s grandfather, Carson Lee Herron, played in the 1934 Open and Tim’s father, Carson, played in the 1963 Open. All three also played in the U.S. Amateur.
“Golf was always part of our family,” Tim said. “We caddied for each other and for other good players. I’d hang out with my buddies during the winter, but they knew when summer came, I’d be on the golf course.”
The youngest Herron child, Alissa, 28, won the Minnesota Girls’ Junior at age 16 and also qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur. She played college golf at the University of Florida for one year before transferring to Wisconsin. Alissa won the 1999 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur with brother Tim caddying, and also captured three consecutive Minnesota state amateur championships (1996-98). She was named Minnesota Player of the Year in ’98 and ’99.
Alissa works at Signature Sports Group, a sports management firm. One of her clients? Tim Herron.
“I really enjoy the game of golf,” Alissa said. “But what I enjoy most are the people who surround golf. And I get to hang around with and talk to those people every day. It’s what I’ve been doing my whole life.”
Ketti, the oldest Herron sibling at 36, plays to a 20 handicap, but was angered by a recent item in Golfweek that called her a “noncompetitive golfer.”
“I’m more competitive than you are,” Ketti told Alissa after reading the description. “I’m just not as good as you.”
Tim, however, has the most serious approach to the game. He is the family’s only professional, although Carson was a club pro in 1962-63 at Wayzata (Minn.) Country Club before deciding on a career as an insurance salesman and getting reinstated as an amateur. Alissa has the “best swing in the family,” according to Carson, and loves to play, but decided she did not want to try playing for a living.
The children are distinct in their paths, but golf always has been there in some form.
Ketti is a former successful advertising executive in Chicago, where she displayed some of the aforementioned acumen for competition. Unlike her brother and sister, Ketti didn’t show much interest in golf as a child. She took it up when she was in college, but it was her early disinterest that produced Tim’s introduction to the game.
“My dad bought her a set of junior clubs – I was about 5 or 6, so Ketti was 9 or 10 – and she didn’t want them,” Tim said. “My dad was kind of disappointed, but I said I would take them.
“Those were my first clubs, the ones I used when my dad and I would play three holes and run the dogs.”
The Herrons lived a 9-iron away from Wayzata Country Club – in fact, one of their dogs, a basset hound named Homer, was named after Homer Martinson, Wayzata’s head pro at the time.
“Some people didn’t take too kindly to us running the dogs on the course,” said Alissa, who benefited from the three-hole rounds with mom and dad a few years after Tim.
As for Carson Herron, he is 10-time club champion at Wayzata, earning the title in his 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. He and Roger Rovick represented Wayzata when they won the Minnesota Golf Association Senior Four-Ball Championship in 1992, and Herron won the MGA’s Senior Amateur Championship in 1997.
Herron calls his captaincy of the University of Minnesota golf team in 1960-61 among his top golf achievements. In fact, he stresses how proud he is of what he and his family have accomplished in the sport, even though they are from a cold-weather state.
“It shows people that there’s good golf in Minnesota,” Herron said.
Carson Herron still plays in about 10 amateur tournaments each year, and says that’s a number he is comfortable with for the foreseeable future.
“I love to play,” said Herron, who is being honored this weekend at Golfweek’s Father & Son Open at Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando, Fla. “I just love being around good golfers.”